Why the total solar eclipse in 2024 will be different than it was in 2017

(NEXSTAR) – All total solar eclipses aren’t the same, and this year’s is setting up to be especially phenomenal, NASA says.

“The eclipse in 2024 could be even more exciting due to differences in the path, timing, and scientific research,” NASA wrote on its website.

Eclipse chasers from around the globe are set to converge on the so-called path of totality, or the stripe across the U.S. from which people will see the moon completely cover up the sun on April 8, 2024.

U.S. residents have the chance to observe two total solar eclipses in just under seven years after the eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017, which stretched from Salem, Oregon, to Charleston, South Carolina.

The moon’s proximity to Earth

During this year’s solar eclipse, the moon will be closer to Earth than it was during the 2017 event, further obscuring the sun’s rays and creating a wider path of totality.

Instead of 62 to 71 miles during the 2017 eclipse, in 2024 the path of totality will be between 108 and 122 miles wide, according to NASA.

Thanks to the larger path across the U.S. and the route the eclipse will take over more densely populated areas, roughly 31.6 million people are in the path of totality this year, compared to 12 million during the last total solar eclipse.

According to NASA, 99% of people living in the U.S. will get the chance to see at least a partial view of the eclipse.

Extended totality

The moment that inspires people to travel around the world to watch an eclipse, the scarce time in totality, will be longer this year than it was in 2017.

In Carbondale, Illinois, totality lasted for two minutes and 42 seconds in 2017.

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On April 8, however, the duration of totality will be longer than four minutes from Texas north to Economy, Indiana, according to NASA. As the path of totality continues north into Canada, the eclipse will still last more than three minutes.

The role of solar activity

Like the finale of a fireworks show, the sun could add some breathtaking flare to the eclipse on April 8 that it didn’t have in 2017.

The sun’s magnetic field flips roughly every 11 years, causing a spike and then a lull in solar activity.

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In 2017, solar activity was at a minimum, but this year, eclipse viewers will get an additional treat as the sun becomes more active with possible “streamers flowing in to the solar atmosphere” from behind the moon’s shadow, according to NASA.

“In addition to that, viewers will have a better chance to see prominences – which appear as bright, pink curls or loops coming off the Sun,” NASA stated. “With lucky timing, there could even be a chance to see a coronal mass ejection – a large eruption of solar material – during the eclipse.”

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